What is a Nurse?

Alabelle Zghoul, RN(Photo: Kevin Fitsimons, WOSU)

Meet Alabelle Zghoul, RN

What exactly do you do?
I’m a nurse, and I’ve been doing it for the past 32 years. I stared working in the emergency room. I wanted to be a doctor to begin with, but being the sixth kid of seven – and all professionals – there wasn’t enough money. So I became a nurse. I actually liked it. Being a person who wanted to make a difference, I always wanted to do that. Being the sixth kid, I wanted to make myself above the other kids. I’m always the sixth kid, the baby girl of the family. But when I’m there being a nurse, I can sense the difference. I can teach. I think being in my profession, you have to like what you do. I’ve been at Ohio State for the last 26 years. I was the first nurse to take care of the first heart transplant at Ohio State. There are ups and downs in any profession, problems in anything that you do, but you have to like what you do. There is one thing I can suggest to anybody: It doesn’t matter where you’re at; it doesn’t matter what you do; you have to like your job. But if you’re happy in what you do, you can survive. My dad always said, always find the good things in everything that you do. There are times, especially when I’m so busy at work, I come home and I’m really tired, but always think of the things of that you did today that made your worth it.

Describe a typical day.
There is no typical day. It’s always different, and you can’t expect things to go the way you’d like it to be. There are always surprises. Every patient is different. That’s part of the excitement about what I do.

What disappoints you about the job?
I don’t have enough time in the day to do the things I want to do. One thing that I didn’t learn enough in the early days: you have to make time for your family, and you have to make time for your job. Sometimes it’s hard to combine those. There aren’t enough hours in a day. Twenty-four hours is not enough.

What are you typical hours?
I work a 10-hour shift. At my work, there’s a 10-hour shift and an 8-hour shift, and some people can work a six-hour shift. We have staggered shifts. In different fields, you can choose some days that you want to work. Some people work from 6 AM until 2:30 in the afternoon. We have 7 – 3:30. Sometimes I work 8 – 6:30. On Thursday we have late shifts. It differs, which is nice because some people cannot come in early everyday, and some people cannot come in until in the middle of the afternoon, so they work evenings.

It’s really nice, because there are different fields. You can be in hearts, you can be in informatics, which is computers. You can go anywhere in nursing. You can teach, and you can do both, which I do. We teach student nurses. We teach medical students.

How has job changed?
Clinical wise, it hasn’t really changed that much. That patient-to-nurse, one-to-one relationship has always been there. Technology wise, it has changed a lot. Robotics surgery wasn’t there when I started. You can do surgery now when a surgeon is here and the patient is somewhere in Europe. It’s really amazing. Heart surgeries used to take 12 hours; now you can do it in two hours or an hour.

What are the most important skills a nurse can have?
What makes a good nurse is your ability to observe and think quickly. For patients’ sake, it’s the power of observation and assessment. That saves lives.

What do wish someone had told you before you left high school?
I wish someone had told me before that I have to be organized at all times. I’m not. I wish someone had told me that there are always ups and downs, because when I was in high school, I remember someone telling me “You know, once you’ve finished college, you’ll be ok. You’ll have money, you’ll be successful.” It’s not true. You have to work hard for what you want to be. If you want to be successful, you really have to work hard at it. You have to learn every day, and educate yourself. You cannot be stagnant.